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Most Intimate Health Questions, Answererd

Sometimes The Questions That Make You Blush Are The Very Questions You Need To Ask



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Can Lyme disease be sexually transmitted?

When you live in a region where Lyme disease is on everyone's lips, and spring brings fresh worries about tick-borne infections, it's inevitable that questions about sexual transmission will come up. The notion is not far-fetched, says Hyde Park-based Lyme specialist Richard Horowitz, MD, author of How Can I Get Better? An Action Plan for Treating Resistant Lyme & Chronic Disease (St. Martins Griffin, 2017). "Lyme is a genetically related cousin of syphilis, which we know is sexually transmitted." Like Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, syphilis's Treponema pallidum is a spirochetal organism. The relationship between them inspired two published articles by Drs. Ray Stricker and Maureen Middelveen on the potential sexual transmission of Lyme. "What they found is that there were a small number of spirochetes that were present in sperm and vaginal secretions," says Horowitz. "So in the study it was suggested that Lyme could be sexually transmitted, like syphilis. But the difference is that when we look at epidemiological data on the transmission rates of Lyme, we see that there are spikes during the spring, summer, and fall, but not in the wintertime. We also know that with the transmitted disease you generally need very high levels of the organism, a large amount of the bacteria. So although it is theoretically possible, especially if someone has lesions and the spirochetes could get in, it is probably unlikely with the vast majority of the population. We definitely need more proof."

Yet tick bites are not the only way to contract Lyme disease. "There is a large body of scientific evidence, which has essentially been ignored by the OBGYN population, that Lyme can be transmitted from mother to fetus, and not just Lyme but other borrelia species like relapsing fever and bartonella," says Horowitz. "These are important questions for women wanting to get pregnant, or who have had multiple miscarriages, as we see sometimes with Lyme disease."

Another interesting connection between Lyme disease and STDs? Lyme is the number two most common infectious disease in the United States. The number one position goes to...chlamydia.

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